“The Aztecs” is an adventure of the first season of “Doctor Who” classic series which aired in 1964. It follows “The Keys of Marinus” and it’s a four parts adventure written by John Lucarotti and directed by John Crockett. At that time the various episodes of each adventure had individual titles, in this case:
- The Temple of Evil
- The Warriors of Death
- The Bride of Sacrifice
- The Day of Darkness
The Tardis materializes in an Aztec tomb. Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) takes a bracelet among the precious objects near the corpse and when she finds the exit she’s discovered but is mistaken for the reincarnation of ancient high priest Yetaxa while the First Doctor (William Hartnell), Ian (William Russell) and Susan (Carole Ann Ford) are mistaken for her servants.
Barbara takes her place among the high priests of the Aztec city and tries to end human sacrifice even if the Doctor warns her that she shouldn’t in any way try to change history but the travelers are caught in a power struggle.
This DVD is rich in extras. There are typical contents such as production subtitles and a gallery of pictures from this adventure.
There are comments in the adventure alternative audio track by protagonists William Russell and Carole Anne Ford and producer Verity Lambert.
Rememberting The Aztecs. Actors John Ringham (Tlotoxl), Ian Cullen (Ixta) and Walter Randall (Tonilo) remember the production of this adventure in this documentary almost 30 minutes long.
Designing The Aztecs. Barry Newbery, the creator of this adventure sets, talks about this job in this documentary about 25 minutes long.
Cortez and Montezuma. The story of the Aztecs and the encounter between the and Montezuma and Cortez told in a Blue Peter episode broadcast in 1970.
Restoring The Aztecs. A look at the restoration work carried out on this adventure for the production of the DVD.
Arabic Soundtrack. The option to see the fourth episode of this adventure with arabic music.
“Making Cocoa”. How to prepare a hot chocolate.
TARDIS-Cam No. 3. A short model sequence showing the Tardis.
In the early seasons of “Doctor Who” classic series there were adventures set in Earth’s past and adventures in which the Doctor and his companions met aliens or monsters. “The Aztecs” is an excellent example of a historical adventure.
For some reason over the years a negative reputation has built dismissing “The Aztecs” as a poor man’s version of “Marco Polo”. Unfortunately it’s impossible to verify whether it’s the truth or just nostalgia because the adventure “Marco Polo” is among the lost ones so you can only hear the audio version, which still exists, and see some photographs taken during its production. What is certain is that the production of “The Aztecs” DVD allows us to rediscover a really good adventure.
One of the key points of “The Aztecs” is in the warning the Doctor gives Barbara about not trying to change history in any way. The issue has become more complex especially in the new “Doctor Who” series, at the time there were a few adventures to base upon and the Doctor simply articulates his recommendation stating that he knows what he’s talking about.
Of course, Barbara still attempts to use her authority to stop human sacrifice but only finds an ally in the high priest of knowledge Autloc. In fact, the religious conditioning of Aztec society leads even the intended victims to want to be sacrificed to their gods. The high priest of the sacrifice Tlotoxl bases his power on this practice so he considers Barbara his enemy and tries to prove that she’s not the reincarnation of the high priest Yetaxa.
Barbara, being a history teacher, knows the Aztec civilization, sees what good there is in it and is convinced that if human sacrifices ceased it could be strengthened and perhaps resist the conquest by the Spaniards. Her beliefs clash with those of the people and especially with Tlotoxl’s machinations as he tries to attack Barbara also indirectly attacking her friends in various ways.
Barbara initially acts to try to influence the Aztec society but soon she’s forced to react to defend herself and the other time travelers from Tlotoxl’s various attacks. Inevitably, her attempt to change history fails but so it must, as the Doctor points out.
In the midst of this historical drama there are also more lighthearted moments. “The Aztecs” is remembered for the Doctor’s involuntary engagement with Cameca. Between the two of them a true connection is created but in the end the Doctor leaves the woman, even if reluctantly. Only later in the series the Doctor starts suggesting to someone he likes to travel with him.
“The Aztecs” is an adventure well done from a visual standpoint as well, despite the limitations of black and white and especially of the budget. In the restoration carried out for the production of the DVD, the background has been retouched in some pictures because the quality had become so good that you could see well the edges of the Aztec city and you could notice that it was painted. Among the extras there are some color pictures of the Aztec costumes so you can fully enjoy their beauty.
The DVD has done justice to “The Aztecs” showing that it’s really a great adventure and also considering the excellent quality of the extras in my opinion it’s a must for “Doctor Who” fans and for anyone who wants to discover the First Doctor.